Healthy Now: Walking the walk with granola | SierraSun.com

Healthy Now: Walking the walk with granola

Special to the Sun

Every year around the beginning of March, we start to see men and women wearing enormous backpacks at the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District's Fitness Center. No, they are not campers here to use our shower facilities; they are hikers gearing up for the Pacific Crest Trail. Their training looks pretty brutal. Honestly, they are only doing what many of the members do every day – the indoor track, the stairs, the treadmills at a steep incline, the squats, swimming laps (hopefully without the packs) — but with 60 extra pounds strapped to their bodies. The PCT folks kind of keep to themselves. Perhaps they are "getting in the zone." They will break focus to talk about their upcoming adventure, however, and so we mere mortals reading our People Magazines on the stationary bikes stopped one to ask the most pressing question: "What do you eat out there?" Six out of six Pacific Crest Trail hikers answered "granola." Great! What's not to love about granola? Answer: plenty.

Even some of the most popular, mainstream "healthy" granolas contain loads of sugar and very little fiber. Some do not even offer protein. The caloric content can be ridiculously high for a quarter cup "serving." Who eats a quarter cup of cereal? (Well, yes, if it is on frozen yogurt.) Do not fall for the front of the package touting names with enticements such as "Healthy Grains" or "Whole Oats." You've got to read the back of the package to find out what is being done to those oats and grains. You need to look for low sugar (around seven grams or less) and carbohydrates (25 or less), high fiber (four or more). Dried fruits will add to the sugar and carbohydrate content, so that's OK, and nuts will add fat, also OK. Your best bet for your health and your pocketbook is to make your own granola. It is easy to do, inexpensive in the long run, and can be better for you and just plain better, than anything you grab packaged off the shelf.

This recipe started with a basic granola from Mike, then Amy added her two cents, and Leslie a third. Chances are you will be seeing a lot of it on and off the Pacific Coast Trail this summer.

Good Granola

7 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup sunflower seeds

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1 cup unsweetened coconut

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

1 cup pitted dates boiled briefly in 3 / 4 cup water

1 / 2 cup maple syrup (which is the lowest sugar on the glycemic index)

2 tsp vanilla

1 / 4 cup canola oil

1 /2 cup roasted, shelled pepitas or pumpkin seeds (look for them in the Hispanic aisle, with the bagged spices.)

Optional: 1 box FiberActive cereal available at Save Mart. Excellent source of fiber, zero sugar, 2 grams protein.

Preparation: Preheat oven to 170°. Place dates (and water), maple syrup, vanilla and oil in blender and blend well. Mix well with all dry ingredients except the pepitas seeds.  Spread on 2 cookie sheets and bake 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle both sheets with pepitas seeds. Cool and store in freezer. Enjoy as is with cashew or almond milk, or mix this granola 50-50 with FiberActive cereal to give yourself more fiber and less calories.

This column comes courtesy of Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District staff and members, inspiring creative, active lives for a healthy mountain community. For more information on how you can stay in shape this spring, visit tdrpd.org.